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Frieze New York 2023

Ignatio Mattos’s Most Recommended Meals

The Michelin starred-chef shares tips for eating in New York during Frieze Week

BY Ignacio Mattos AND Matthew McLean in Interviews , Opinion | 15 MAY 23

Matthew McLean This June will mark a decade since the opening night of Estela. Can you remember how you felt this time ten years ago?

Igancio Mattos Just before Estela opened, I got stuck in Brazil for three months while I was waiting for my green card. Once I got back to New York, what I remember is trying desperately to pull everything together in order to open on time. We were still figuring out what Estela would and should be. We wanted to open a simple, fun neighborhood spot that was just elevated enough to get attention. It became a little more than that. I certainly wasn’t expecting the accolades.

MM What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the decade since?

IG Restaurants, like people, take time to grow and stand alone.

MM You began your career working with the Argentine Francis Mallmann. What was the major lesson he imparted to you?

IG Francis taught me to be comfortable with the unknown—to make changes and take risks, particularly when no one else is willing to do so.

MM How do you feel your upbringing in rural Uruguay shaped your relationship to food?

IG Being so close to the soil, understanding the weather and seasons, and learning what it takes to grow vegetables and raise animals gives you a different appreciation for food.

Drawing of food on a table.
Illustration: Tarn Susumpow

MM What’s the first meal you can really intensely remember?

IG The first dish that I remember intensely is my grandmother’s pasta: taglierini with sugo. But there are a few restaurant meals that were particularly moving. My meal at Restaurante Martín Berasategui [near San Sebastián in Spain] was like being on a rocket ship to outer space. And having pizza at Studio Pizza Tamaki in Tokyo showed me that some people are close to divinity. Creating that pizza is as close to God as a human can get.

MM Besides your own Estela (2018), what’s one cookbook every home should have?

IG The Zuni Cafe Cookbook (2002). It’s the most sophisticated and well-written cookbook I know.

MM What’s the single best thing about running a restaurant?

IG The people are still the best part.

MM Best place to eat in NYC near The Shed?

IG I’d go to Koreatown—likely Baekjeong.

MM Best place to eat in NYC to impress someone or for a blow-out occasion?

IG I love the River Café in Dumbo. They have quite a view.

MM Best place to eat breakfast before a long day?

IG I love the breakfast menu at Corner Bar [in Nine Orchard on the Lower East Side]. I also like Ground Support on West Broadway.

MM What’s one recipe you look forward to passing onto your children?

IG A ragù that my grandmother used to make.

MM The next culinary destination you’re dreaming of visiting?

IG Vietnam.

MM What’s currently your favorite thing on any of your menus?

IG Lodi’s fior di latte gelato, made to order and served with chocolate salami.

This article first appeared in Frieze Week, May 2023 under the headline ‘Chef's Choice’

Main image: Illustration: Tarn Susumpow

Ignacio Mattos is the Chef and Founder of Mattos Hospitality, which comprises the restaurants Estela, Altro Paradiso, Lodi and Corner Bar. He lives in New York, US.

Matthew McLean is creative director at Frieze Studios. He lives in London, UK.